Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BITTER SWEETS by Roopa Farooki


by Roopa Farooki

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-312-36052-8
Publisher: St. Martin's

A deceitful marriage in Calcutta sets in motion a rolling snowball of lies and double lives which will consume three generations of a single family.

Tangled webs stretch from the Indian subcontinent to England in Farooki’s debut, a comic novel in which a tendency toward deception infects most of the principal characters. Encouraged by her father, teenage Henna pretends to be older and smarter than she is to snare the affections of wealthy, worldly Rashid Karim. Once married, she reveals that she’s 13 and illiterate. Later, having given birth to a daughter, Shona, Henna secretly aborts her subsequent pregnancies. At age 21, Shona elopes to England with her handsome Pakistani boyfriend Parvez. Rashid too begins a new life in the U.K., having found the love Henna never offered him in faded English rose Verity. When Shona uncovers her father’s bigamy, the price of her silence is the cost of fertility treatment, thanks to which she gives birth to twins Omar and Sharif. Verity, meanwhile, gives Rashid a daughter, Candida. Chickens come home to roost after the children grow up. Shona, now conducting a secret affair with a colleague, causes Rashid to have a heart attack when he sees the couple together. At the hospital, Sharif meets Candida and falls in love with her, ignorant of the fact that she is his aunt. Bad behavior and dishonesty will eventually be forgiven and forgotten, however, in a sequence of tidy conclusions.

What begins as sly charm fades into something less original and endearing in this confident, heavily themed but lightweight romantic comedy.